The Illusionists Live From Broadway 2018 Tour Is Still A Magical Experience

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The Illusionists Live From Broadway 2018 North American Tour - Ah Ha Lim - Photo Credit: ©Claudia James

Magic. Some people can't stand to be fooled. Others thrill at having their expectations toyed with. Having seen The Illusionists Live from Broadway tour last year I thought this time is know what to expect. Perhaps I'd catch their expert slight of hand technique falter and figure out how their trick was done. 

Despite having seen the tour twice now, I'm still flummoxed! I have a theory or two, but there's a reason why these guys are masters of their craft. They're phenomenally good.

Let's start with Jeff Hobson, aka The Trickster. If Liberace had been a TV game show host he'd be Jeff Hobson. He has a quick wit, great personal charm and a wonderful voice with which he amuses and distracts the audience. His tricks aren't the most complicated but are perhaps that much more effective for their simplicity. He spins a wonderful yarn of fashion puns while performing the classic "rip up a string and musically put it back together" trick. Hobson's Egg in the Sack trick is also hysterical to watch, and even more so the reaction of the member of the audience he brings on stage to do the trick too. His slow-motion replay and simultaneous insult of Union, Missouri's slow-thinking residents (last year it was Festus) is flat out comedy gold. 

An Ha Lim, aka The Manipulator. Hailing from South Korea, Lim has become one of the world's foremost playing card manipulators. His first routine is making cards appear seemingly from midair. One would assume the cards are hidden in his fancy vest, but good luck trying to catch him in the act. He closed the show with a little prestidigitation, transforming ordinary playing cards into cast pictures and spreading deck into a title banner. As someone who’s never had the most nimble of fingers, I’m pretty much in awe of anyone who can do card manipulations well. Mr. Lim does them better than almost anyone.

Jonathan Goodwin aka The Daredevil. “Have crossbow, will astound!” should be the slogan on Jonathan Goodwin’s business card, though “World’s Greatest Theatrical Daredevil” is more impressive and more accurate. He has performed a wide variety of stunts; including being sewn up inside a dead cow ("I thought they smelled bad on the outside." -- Han Solo), and several other equally disturbing and terrifying stunts. Since the Fabulous Fox Theatre probably would have some issues with dead cows on their stage, his act in The Illusionists is centered on the aforementioned crossbow. He fires at a couple of fairly simple stationary targets before his lovely assistant Ashleigh McCready comes out to hold the targets for him, including when he's blindfolded. Even an expert would have a hard time hitting a newspaper on the edge with a crossbow bolt at 20 paces, but the Fox Theatre’s air conditioning had the single sheet of newspaper fluttering about. When it was all said and done, McCready was unscratched. And so was Alison Koroly, his other assistant who shockingly appears where you'd least expect. He also catches a crossbow bolt fired straight at his chest, which had the audience on edge.

On the last tour, The Deductionist was Colin Cloud, a smooth Scotsman, dapper in attire and straight forward in his presentation. This time Chris Cox features under the title of The Mentalist with a somewhat similar act. He's a frantic bundle of nervous energy that masks his skill at getting in your head. The audience was given the opportunity before the show to fill out a short questionnaire which was then sealed in an envelope. Mr. Cox would pull an envelope out of the box, accurately describe the answers without opening the envelope, verifying the information with audience member whose name is signed on the front. Then he'd take it a step further and describe answers of the person next to the person whose envelope he was holding, right down to one audience member's house number. It was a completely different style from the last tour but he was just as effective.

Finally, Darcy Oake joins the tour as The Grand Illusionist. His act was harder to pin down into just one category. The first trick was preformed with the assistance of a young boy (I believe his name was Ryan?) not 10 feet from my seat. He showed the audience an empty bottle with a thick cork securely blocking the mouth. This was inserted into a metal box, which in turn was placed in another metal box. The box was given to Ryan, and then Ryan was asked to pick a card at random from a deck Oake fanned for him. He picked one, which Oake sandwiched between the jokers. Right in front of Ryan, and in full view of myself, he made Ryan's card disappear. And unfathomably, it was in the bottle inside the box inside the other box! It might not read as so amazing of a trick, but it's the one my lovely companion and I chatted about the most on the way out. Oake also made quarters fall through the sealed an of an inverted glass into a shot glass beneath, seemingly from out of nowhere, and in another trick I was impressed with he managed to appear to have "come to life" from a poster of himself where the audience could see behind that there was no room for the magician to be hiding, and then with a quick flourish he conjured a full sized, ferocious-looking chopper. 

All in all it was a fine show, though the 2017 tour had a bit more diversity of acts. Dan Sperry did not appear with his "street magic" style act, though Hobson mentioned to a group near by that a "trick with birds" was forthcoming after intermission. I knew he must have been referring to Sperry but it never happened. Also missing was the Inventor, Kevin James, who's act ranges from comedic to subtle and otherworldly. As I said before, Chris Cox replaced Colin Cloud as the show's Mentalist. No one could replace Andrew Basso, the modern day Houdini, who thrilled the audience last year with the incredibly dangerous Water Torture Cell Escape. No disrespect to Master Goodwin, whose Daredevil title is well-earned. The Water Torture Cell Escape is just insane. 

I sure wish i knew how Hobson does that Egg in a Sack trick. Maybe I'll figure it out next year!

To see when The Illusionists, Live from Broadway is coming to a stage near you, please visit and also check out for the next great show on the St. Louis' grand stage. 

4.5 / 5.0